Australia will become the first country with airworthiness requirements for the operation of civil unmanned air vehicles when new legislation becomes effective later this year.

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) initiated development of UAV regulations in 1996 when it started work on Civil Aviation Safety Regulation Part 101, says Mal Walker, CASA flight operations inspector.

CASA has divided UAVs into three categories: micro, with a launch mass of less than 100g; small, for fixed wing UAVs with a 150kg launch mass/100kg for rotary wing systems; and large UAVs.

A micro UAV possesses little risk and is essentially exempt from the regulations, while small UAVs are restricted to uncontrolled airspace and cannot be flown higher than 400ft (120m) above ground level (AGL). Large UAVs are considered de facto large aircraft and must be certificated, registered and flown by qualified controllers.

Walker says controller qualifications have been established and an operating certificate similar to an air operator one will be issued.

As UAVs are not smart aircraft capable of seeing and avoiding other air traffic, there will always be a requirement for specified procedures, conditions, limitations and occasional prohibition, Walker says. CASA, however, will not be seeking see-and-avoid systems or chase aircraft, he adds.

Approvals from CASA district offices, will be needed for all large UAV missions and for small UAV flights above 400ft AGL.

Source: Flight International